NRL Round 6: What we learned

We were treated to five days of rugby this round, with a shock Wests Tigers victory capping off an entertaining Easter weekend.

In other notable results, the St George Illawarra Dragons returned to winning ways, whilst the Melbourne Storm proved too strong for an in-form Cronulla Sharks side.

Here’s what we learned in Round 6.

Ricky Stuart is approaching unwanted territory

For the first time since taking over the Canberra Raiders, Ricky Stuart is rattled – and it could see him join the growing list of coaches under pressure.

While the likes of Michael Maguire, Trent Barrett and Anthony Griffin have all had their side’s struggles well-documented early in the year, Ricky’s Raiders have been quite poor across the board and are yet to strike a major blow.

Their second-half display against North Queensland on Thursday night was shambolic, with Stuart calling out the majority of his players.

He named Jack Wighton, Josh Papalii, Joseph Tapine – three of the senior players – as the only ones “playing good football”, which is a great way to get other stars offside.

Stuart’s comments surrounding young gun Xavier Savage – who was brought on late in the game and came up with a costly mistake – were extremely harsh and didn’t need to be made in a public forum.

The frustration and lashing out post-game from Stuart make him appear as a coach under immense pressure. After missing the finals in 2021 and this year looking like it may go the same way, things are appearing dire for the Green Machine.

Kotoni Staggs could be NSW’s new centre

Kotoni Staggs exploded into form by terrorizing Paul Momirovski. On Friday night, Izack Tago and Taylan May were his next victims. The young duo struggled to contain Staggs’ powerful running game missing seven tackles between themselves.

When you compare his numbers to arguably the game’s best centre, Joey Manu, the Bronco seems capable of inflicting similar damage to the opposition.

Staggs has scored two tries and provided one assist (dropping two over-the-line). This is where Manu easily has him beat with five tries and three assists.

However, when it comes down to their overall game it compares favorably. Staggs has 592 running meters, opposed to Manu’s 532. Staggs has six linebreaks and 30 tackle busts. Manu has five line breaks and 23 tackle busts. Staggs has also completed 22 more tackles than the Kiwi, while only missing two extra.

Latrell Mitchell appears likely to be ruled out for the State of Origin opener. If Staggs continues in the form he has been over the last fortnight, he will be almost impossible for Brad Fittler to ignore.

We’re heading for a repeat of the 2020 grand final

There was a lot to like about Cronulla’s showing against Melbourne. They displayed plenty of resilience and attacking flair to remain in the contest. But every time they threatened to get within striking distance in the second half, the Storm pushed them back out to arm’s length.

Cameron Munster was in irrepressible form. Harry Grant was a nuisance out of dummy half. And Ryan Papenhuyzen was a constant thorn in the Sharks side, despite picking up an ankle injury late in the opening stanza.

With such a dominant spine, it is almost impossible to stop the Storm from scoring points. If Munster doesn’t get you with dazzling footwork, Grant will by driving over from dummy half. And so on and so forth.

Penrith look like they are a similar proposition right now. They have the means to hurt teams from all areas of the pitch, as well as the sort of defensive resolve that famously ushers in Premiership-winning discussions.

There’s still a long way to go this season, but Melbourne and Penrith are setting the early standards. They are standards that the rest of the competition may not be able to match.

The Roosters have a long way to go

The Sydney Roosters were made to work for their 22-14 win over the New Zealand Warriors, in what was a slightly disjointed showing. Regardless, they got the job done.

The tricolours’ ability to win these kinds of close matches is a major strength but is unlikely to be enough at the business end of the season. Trent Robinson’s men are looking like top-four contenders, however, there is still a lot of work to be done in order to compete with the best of the best.

At the moment, the Melbourne Storm and Penrith Panthers are a step above. Good thing the season is still in its fantasy.

Play the youngsters, Hook

It has been a familiarly disappointing season thus far for Anthony Griffin’s men, but this weekend’s win over Newcastle was a breath of fresh air for fans of the Red V.

Mathew Feagai starred for the Dragons, scoring a double in a strong showing on the wing, while centers Moses Suli and Zac Lomax both had their best games of the year respectively.

And even Talatau Amone’s 11-minute cameo at the conclusion of the game was impressive. He was lively, taking advantage of a tired Knights defense and even playing a role in their late try to secure the result.

This team showed fight all match, and a number of youngsters were at the heart of it.

It may be risky, but there are rewards to be gained from trusting the young members of the Dragons squad for the rest of the season.

Jackson Hastings is the new Wests Tigers halfback

Entering into the game, it seemed to be a question of ‘by how much’ for Parramatta. But Michael Maguire’s litany of changes and positional tweaks massively improved the Wests Tigers. They produced the shock result of the season so far with a 21-20 win over the Eels.

Jackson Hastings at halfback provided the guidance around the park for a team that has lacked it for many years now. This also allowed Luke Brooks to take on a roaming role.

†[Hastings] is doing a great job controlling the team and just letting me play off the back of that,” Luke Brooks told Fox League at half time.

The former Man of Steel was involved in everything; cajoling his team-mates, getting them into position, kicking to the corners, and giving Brooks great attacking balls where he could lay on assists.

However, Hastings’ biggest moment was when, in the final seconds, he nailed a long-range field goal to secure the most unlikely of wins.

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